We cut short our planned stay in Bavaria, in order to help an Austrian couple on their Organic farm outside Vienna and learn how to butcher. So it was another lengthy car share from Munich to St. Pölten where we met our new hosts Rene and Elke.
We spent twenty days staying with Rene, Elke and there little boy Raphael on an old Vierkanthof in a tiny hamlet called Heinigstetten. With two horses, one pony, two pigs and a flock of chickens and turkeys we found ourselves in a daily routine of animal care. This ranged from mucking out, feeding, collecting eggs, trying to find the escaping pony and fixing the electrical fence!! On day two the turkeys were all gone; Olof helped slaughter, Anna helped soak and pluck, then we watched on in amazement at how (quite possibly the largest butcher in the world) went about his task. Taking time to spend a weekend in Vienna we were sucked into the Christmas Markets yet again, which were now in full swing. We spent hours in the Naschmarkt, got aquatinted with the coffee and cake culture, schnitzeled out, fell in love with the old cinemas and spent hours watching artistic films. A day trip to Krems not only allowed us to admire the old architecture but gave us easy access to local heurigers and the sampling of local wine. Thanks to Rene & Elke we got to sample wine and traditional Austrian food at more local heurigers, took a trip to Robert Paget’s farm, the only Buffalo Mozzarella (Organic) producer in Austria, learnt how to make the most delicious sauerkraut, went to a gig for the first time in ages and the music was fantastic, Shantel and his entourage played fun Balkan tunes that really get you moving, joined friends and other workawayers for a massive roast hog feast, discovered quite possibly the most delicious Organic chocolate in the world named Zotter Chocolate (google it) and left with an amazing goodie bag of home made products , but not before we branded and designed a website for the farm.
Click the interactive map to see the places we visited during our 20 days in Austria.
1) Meeting Rene, Elke and Raphi and sharing their family life for 3 weeks.
2) Going to see Shantel live in st Pölten,we really rocked out to the german based balkan turbo folk pop rock group.
3) Anna calling the cops on a tourist trapping classical concert in vienna and getting a 50% refund.
4) Discovering Zotter Chocolate and visiting Robert’s farm.
5) Having a very chilled and relaxing weekend in Vienna enjoying more of the Christmas markets.
1) Been unable to visit Sepp Holzer’s farm the krameterhof due to out of season closure.
2) Unfortunately not acquiring as many Turkey butchering skills as expected. The big butcher was in charge and the language barrier limited learnings.
3) Mucking out the horses got to us (our backs and elbows) after 3 weeks of scooping poop.
4) Olof’s allergy to cats.
5) The cold, the cold, the cold and only seeing a very small part of Austria.
“Second quote that we can add here”
“Second quote that we can add here”
Ecoquest Learnings and Overview
We spent 17 days on Rene and Elke’s farm and what an eye opener it was. We got to witness first hand what it is like to try and develop and run a farm, hold down full time jobs and raise a family. It’s really hard work, physically and emotionally. Whilst balancing a family and a career is a great task in itself add the transition of pulling yourself away from high profile, serious professions to attempting to develop and run a productive farm and you have entered an totally different realm. These guys really needed our help and whilst Olof focused on the Physical tasks at hand, Anna scurried around tidying out various parts of the farm in an attempt to create some areas of calm amongst the chaos.
We learnt a lot about animal care and if you choose to have animals in your system, then they really must come first, their mouths need feeding before yours and the amount of time invested in cleaning is phenomenal, not to mention the cost involved in feeding and cleaning. After our time here we both started to question which animals, if any we’d incorporate in our system but more importantly where would be place/house them. Given the age of Rene & Elke’s farm and how quick they were to bring animals into there farm the entire layout of the animal systems was simply well, not very Permaculture, the animal feed was not close enough to where they lived and the compost heap for the horse manure involved traipsing wheel barrows through 3 different rooms, each time having to stop to open and close doors and then take the barrow down a steep slope which deemed lethal when the snow fell. We also got our real first sense of seclusion, 17 days in a tiny hamlet with no shops, services and only a couple of other farms, but to be honest given how busy we were we were happy with the location and we think we’d be content living remotely. We learnt about the animal butchering process but only to a small extent. The Turkeys were very heavy and if you are going to slaughter the whole flock you need a lot of people, good systems in place, not only for the actual butchering process but for the storing of the meat afterwards and everyone needs to understand their role.
Rene gave Anna some great little cooking classes, learning to make Sauerkraut and Austrian dumplings and whilst it was bitterly cold outside we learnt how to live a very present life, focusing on the farm and food production whilst gaining an understanding into what Rene and Elke’s business model would look like once they had completed their full transition from days in the office to a full time job on the farm.
For ourselves we would conclude that we took these main lessons: Lesson number 1; don’t bite off more than you can chew financially or physically. Lesson number 2; don’t have horses, they take a lot of looking after and are really expensive to keep (unless of course Horses is the core focus of you business model) Lesson number 3; Really analyse the productivity of your animal systems, for example if it is costing you more to feed, house and clean your chickens than you are getting back in eggs, start focusing on that system. Lesson number 4; Whilst running an organic farm is great, implementing Permaculture methods are much more energy efficient. Lesson number 5; Don’t have children??
One of the other things we learnt about Austria was about the heurigers, where local wine producers will open their doors for 2-3 weeks of the year to sell their wine and other food items direct from the farm tax free, so in addition to getting to sample local, fresh fare it’s also goof value for money. We were lucky in that whilst we were in Austria the local heurigers were open, it’s actually where we spent our second night.
We didn’t get to spend much of our time outside of the farm but we did get to visit Vienna and Krems and got a feel for how great the Austro-Hungarian Empire must have been once upon a time and created visions in our head of what the great coffee houses would have like back in the day, perhaps we would have been poets or political activist’s back then.
Our final conclusion we needed more time in this country, perhaps away from the capital city exploring more of the countryside.
Managing the Budget
It’s no surprise, given that we spent 17 out of 20 days in Austria working on the farm that we saved considerably against our budget. We only had to spend 1 night on accommodation in Austria and even though we stayed in a youth hostel it still set us back almost £50. Our largest travel cost was the car share from Munch to Vienna at £41.64, but compared to a 100 euro train ticket we were content with our method of transportation. Getting into and out of Vienna was a £20 one way train trip and unfortunately given the remote location of the farm there were a couple of times when we had to take a taxi to get into st Polten which at £30 a trip was relatively expensive. The activity costs were a combination of cinema and concert tickets whilst other costs were a combination of travel insurance, books, phone bills and some gifts for Rene & Elke. Once again it was the food bill that was the biggest and this was a result of or relaxed spending in Vienna, buying goods to host a Scandinavian Christmas feast at Rene and Elkes and lots of amazing Organic cheeses and chocolate from Robert Paget’s farm.
Click the interactive map to see a detailed cost breakdown for our road travel.
NB when detailing the budget, this is the cost for two people.
We spent 85% of our time living and eating at an Organic farm and survived on approximately £40 a day in a pretty expensive country. Had we not gone to Vienna then our Eco Barometer would have been very high on all counts.
Could Austria be for us?
Our time in Austria was simply too isolated to a very small area, as were our activities, so we only got a very very small flavour for this country. An honest answer is we haven’t got a clue, however I feel that at the end of our adventures we probably won’t even think about adding it in as a potential place to live due to the cold climate and the general cost of living here.
Top Tips for Austria
Coming soon top tips and advice for travelling around Austria the Eco way!